With improved arsenal, bigger roster around him, Shaler wrestler excited for senior season

Sunday, December 3, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Michael Ulery used to enter matches hoping his opponent didn’t know his trick. The plan for the 172-pound Shaler senior wrestler was to slap on a front headlock followed by a cement mixer for a quick pin.

But Ulery knew that wouldn’t be a recipe for success against more experienced wrestlers. Entering his senior season, Ulery has added more moves to his arsenal.

“I think I have been able to improve a lot in well-roundedness,” Ulery said. “I used to be a one-trick pony. I rounded out my skills to fit all types of situations. The thing I need to work on is that I need to start wrestling around different people. I needed to wrestle people heavier than me to get stronger and people lighter than me to get faster. I completed that training to become more well-rounded, faster and stronger.”

Ulery, who qualified for the WPIAL Class 3A championships at 160 pounds during the previous two seasons, wants to keep leading a Shaler program down the path toward respectability. When Ulery was a freshman, the Titans only had five wrestlers on the roster.

Shaler didn’t have enough wrestlers in the room to push Ulery to get better. This year, the Titans enter the season with around 20 kids on the roster and should have enough to fill out all of the weight classes in dual meets.

Ulery is one one of four returning WPIAL qualifiers from last season. Sophomores Vito Barravecchio (215 pounds) and Carter Tunstall (127) return along with senior Jacob Cable (139).

Shaler coach Drew D’Agostino said the Titans plan to push themselves on the schedule this year. The Titans roster features a number of wrestlers who are either freshman or sophomores.

“They’ve bought into what we are teaching,” D’Agostino said. “We’re going to the King of the Mountain, which is one of the top five tournaments in PA. It’s going to open some eyes for them. Those early season tournaments let you know what you need to work on.”

Ulery, who is No. 1 in his graduating class and will attend the Air Force Academy, learned a lot last season. As a sophomore, Ulery finished with a career-high 24 wins and won 11 matches via fall. However, as a junior, Ulery was slowed by a knee injury.

He finished 17-12 and was fourth in the section. Ulery is now 47-29 for his career.

“I was able to recover and make it to WPIALs,” Ulery said. “It happened during two different matches. I had to try and take it easy and listen to medical advice. I also had to make sure my other wrestling skills stayed up to par.”

Ulery will likely bump up to 172 pounds for the postseason this year. He is excited to get back on the mats with a full team behind him.

“It’s a massive improvement,” Ulery said. “It’s nice to see our little program become big and popular. This will be a nice sendoff.”


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